Albion’s United were seeking their first victory of 2017 and looked well on the way towards it as play entered the last ten minutes. Alas, the visitors had the last say closing the gap with a goal and intriguingly scoring a try right at the end but with the conversion missed, the sides drew.
Albion made several changes to their line-up with Franklin returning at scrum-half and Owens making his first appearance since September after a long injury. Up front, the youthfulness of the pack was somewhat disturbed with the inclusion of the veterans Page-Symonds and Norman who had enjoyed cult status on his rare 1st XV and try-scoring appearance in the previous week. Later on in the game they were joined by the equally veteran Simon Ranson as injuries disrupted the side.
Albion made a bright start as Owens grubber caused S&P defence some consternation. They could not clear the ball and Page-Symonds smashed over in the very first minute. S&P came back in the game and although Albion produced a good drive out of defence, they were penalised and the visitors kicked the goal to narrow the gap. In the 22nd minute Owens – showing some neat touches – burst right through the visitors’ defence and set up Gillard for a try at the posts which Devitt improved to put Albion 12-3 ahead. Ranson now joined the fray and his thrusts kept Albion going forward until Stotherts hit back with Albion losing a line-out near their own line and they pounced to score a try. Two minutes later although Brakes splendidly caught Albion’s kick-off, the backs contrived to lose the ball and Stothert’s centre burst through on a long run in for a try which was converted to give the visitors a 17-12 interval lead.
Albion set about repairing the damage and four minutes into the second half they won the ball in midfield and Devitt jinked his way over for a fine individual try to level the scores. Albion were now in the ascendancy and on the hour mark after a long time in the Stothert’s 22, another forward drive saw Page-Symonds score his second to give Albion the lead. They extended this immediately afterwards as the forwards won the ball and the backs spun the ball both ways and Devitt raced in for his second try which he also improved to put Albion 29-17 ahead and seemingly well on the way to a much deserved victory. Stotherts had different ideas however and 7 minutes later their impressive right-wing burst down the touchline to score near the posts for a try which was converted to close the gap to 5 points. Albion were now experiencing some problems in the scrum as they were shoved off two of their own put-ins but they defended desperately until the Stotherts’ stand-off just stretched over the line for a try to equal the scores. The same player missed the conversion and Albion breathed again. In a tense last few minutes both sides thought about clinching the issue but none could and the game ended in probably a fair 29-29 draw.
Albion will draw some pride from their display which is much improved on previous weeks. However, this game was for the taking and the concession of too much ball was the problem. Albion did well to win it but did not look after it too well and the visitors were always ready to pounce and to make ground when that happened. The three points gleaned here will be welcome. Four games to go and some against the front runners in the league.
Team: Devitt; Brakes Hughes Lang Gillard; Owens Franklin; Lipscombe Urbonis Euan Trebble-Westlake Page-Symonds Lewis Norman Knight Woolford. Replacement – S Ranson.
Scorers: Tries – Page-Symonds (2) Devitt (2) Gillard. Conversions – Devitt (2).